North Dakota Becomes Unexpected Home for Recent University of Mary Graduate

College students are faced with a lot of decisions as graduation approaches, including what’s next.

One student graduating this Saturday has decided to make North Dakota home.

Jacob Parker moved here from Las Vegas 5 years ago to go the University of Mary. He said he would never stay, but a lot has changed since then.

At first it was all about football.

Parker explains, “I fell in love with the guys out here and decided to make it my choice.”

Football is what brought the 23-year-old cornerback to Bismarck, North Dakota in the first place.

University of Mary Sports Medicine Director Rhonda Olson says, “For him being far away from home and going back only at Christmas and maybe once in the summer to see his family, I mean that’s a pretty big deal. He’s out here on his own and they grow up because they have to.”

Parker quickly learned there was more to learn in college than football.

He adds, “You do some growing up out here. It’s not all fun and games when you’re in college, some of it is more about maturity.”

And reality hit hard when the young athelete lost his mom unexpectedly, late in July.

Parker says, “It was hard, you know. She was my number one fan.”

He says he couldn’t have gotten through it without his team and coaching staff.

Olson says, “We’d talk about his mom and I told him: ‘Nobody can ever replace her, but we can keep her memory alive and we can make sure you’re still doing what she would want you to do.'”

And he’s right on track. Before graduating, Parker started a job at NISC as an Information Security Specialist.

He explains, “Whether it’s working with Macs figuring out how to push updates, or if it’s working on PCs and preventing programs from running, it’s always something different. I never do the same thing every day.”

His Project Manager Jared Martin says Parker’s future in IT has countless possibilities.

Martin adds, “Who knows in 10 years where he’ll be, it’s hard to say. If he works hard and takes projects, he’ll keep going up.”

Even though he’s far from his childhood home, Parker has a new one right here.

He says, “Everyone I’ve grown to know out here has become part of my family, from Mrs. Rhonda to my football teammates, and everyone in between.”

And Parker says he is exactly where he is supposed to be, making his mom proud.

Jacob Parker completed his classes in December, but he will be walking the stage with his classmates tomorrow.

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